Criticise a minister but don't sling mud: Shanmugam
Defamation laws 'not there to stop political discussion'
As Singaporeans become more politically engaged, they should feel free to discuss politics and even criticise ministers and policies, provided they do not make spurious allegations they cannot substantiate, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
Responding to law students' questions about Singapore laws and their impact on free speech at a dialogue organised by students from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, Mr Shanmugam signalled that the Government was not about to soften its stance on defamation laws, even as he said the laws do not curtail political discussion.
Defamation laws, he said, are not there to stop people from criticising the Government, but exist to protect personal reputations.
"If you make a personal allegation of fact, if you say I took money, I am corrupt, I will then sue you and ask you to prove it. But if you say I am a stupid fool who doesn't know what I'm talking about, and the Government comprises ministers who don't know what they're talking about and you criticise every policy of the Government, no one can sue you," he said.
DRAWING A LINE
Every country imposes restrictions on speech, it's a question of where you draw the line and whether you have a clear rationale for it.
- Law Minister K. Shanmugam, citing the example of how it is an offence to deny the Holocaust in Austria